Once the most successful Cistercian base in the country, today the 12th-century Fountains Abbey is one of the region’s most impressive abbey ruins. The devout monks that once lived here grew wealthy off trading wool and built a grand Romanesque cloister that still stands in a secluded setting on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. The picturesque remains are no stranger to the big and small screen, having appeared in films such as The History Boys (2006), Death Comes to Pemberley (2013), TV drama Gunpowder (2017) and most recently The Secret Garden (2020). It sits within the same grounds as Fountains Hall, which dates to 1604 and was used as a double for the exterior of Greenwich Palace in Channel 5’s Anne Boleyn (2021).
Fountains Abbey has old ties with The Secret Garden, having also been used as a location for the 1993 film adaptation. In that version Fountains Hall (the 17th-century mansion in the same grounds, built using stone from the ruined abbey) was used as the exterior of Misselthwaite Manor, while a small gated doorway just opposite became the hidden entrance into the garden.
For the 2020 adaptation it’s the ancient abbey ruins that are the star of the show, having been transformed into a sunken temple complete with vine-covered walls. The crew constructed temporary pools which allowed them to cover the ground with water for the children to splash around in, while still protecting the historic site.
Fountains Abbey is now one of the National Trust’s most popular pay-to-enter historic venues. Walking trails thread through the riverside grounds, which are also home to the Studley Royal Park estate, a stunning water garden with sculptures and fountains erected around the abbey ruins in the 18th-century. Together they form a UNESCO World Heritage site.